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Kirby Simon Summer Fellows Tell Their Stories

Each summer, Yale Law School students—most of whom have just finished their first year of classes—travel around the world to spend three months merging their new academic interests and legal theory with hands-on practice.

Although many YLS students have had opportunities to study and live abroad, the Kirby Simon Summer Fellowships allow a significant number of students to be deeply engaged with some of the most pressing global issues of our time and to grapple in challenging circumstances with what they have been learning about law and the role of law in protecting people’s fundamental rights.

For each of the past few years, approximately forty students have gone to work in every continent on the widest spectrum of human rights issues imaginable. “When we gather in the fall to share experiences, students—even those who had difficult times—tell their stories in the language of life-transforming insights,” says Clinical Professor of Law James Silk ’89, who directs the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic and is executive director of the Law School’s Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights.

“For those who want to pursue careers in human rights, the summer fellowships often give them their first opportunity to work in the field, particularly in challenging situations where serious human rights abuses are being perpetrated. This sort of experience is a critically important credential for human rights work, but one of the most difficult to obtain. And I’m confident,” Silk adds, “that these experiences have a profound and lifelong effect on how all of the summer fellows will practice law, whether in nonprofit organizations, firms, corporations, or government.”

Three students who served as Kirby Simon Fellows during the summer of 2007 agreed to share the highlights of their experiences with the Yale Law Report. To read their reflections, visit www.law.yale.edu/ylr.